Actor Richard Gere’s plan to testify against former Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini for migrant abuse threatens to turn the case into a show trial, the far-right leader said on Sunday.
Gere – a Hollywood star known as an activist for Tibet and other rights issues – will testify against him in the so-called open arms case, according to remarks made by Salvini at a political meeting that were reported by the Ansa news agency.
“If someone wants to turn the trial into a spectacle and wants to see Richard Gere, let him go to the cinema, not to a court,” said the leader of the populist and nationalist League party according to Ansa.
“I know him as an actor, but I don’t understand what kind of lessons he wants to give me,” he added, promising to ask for an autograph for his mother.
Salvini is accused of kidnapping and abuse of power in August 2019 by preventing more than 100 migrants from disembarking from a rescue vessel, even as conditions on board have deteriorated.
Gere had boarded the Open Arms ship to support the migrants, a visit mocked by Salvini at the time.
The migrants were only allowed to leave the Open Arms ship after six days, by order of the prosecutor’s office.
Salvini said he was protecting the country with his so-called “closed ports” policy, which aimed to prevent people from attempting the dangerous crossing from the Mediterranean to Italy.
The Italian Senate voted last year to remove Salvini from parliamentary immunity, paving the way for trial.
A related case in which Salvini was accused of stranding other migrants at sea on an Italian coastguard boat was dismissed by a court in Catania earlier this year.
Salvini’s League takes a hard line on migrants, saying Italy bears an unfair burden as the first point of entry for migrants from North Africa.
When he blocked the ships, Salvini was part of a coalition government and held the posts of interior minister and deputy prime minister.
He argued that his immigration policy was not his own, but accepted by the government, including former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
The trial opened on September 15 in Palermo but was immediately adjourned until October 23.
Twenty-three civil parties, including nine migrants who were on board, are represented at the trial.
Salvini joined the League’s coalition government with the anti-system 5 Star Movement (M5S) in 2018, but in August 2019 he sparked a government crisis in hopes of overhauling the game in an early parliamentary vote. .
The maneuver backfired and the M5S formed a new government with the center-left Democratic Party, which was replaced in early 2021 by a large coalition government including the League and led by Mario Draghi.
cm / fio / pbr / har